I’ve been following Ines Papert’s career since the first time I went to the mountains. She’s become a kind of role model for me. Just like she has for thousands of other women around the globe. A firm chin, a frank look in the eyes, a friendly smile. That’s apart from her achievements in the mountains, on the rocks, the book, and the film.
I had to meet Ines in different parts of the world, this interview was recorded in Moscow, where she gave the long-awaited lecture. And the coordination of the material promised to turn into an organizational nightmare because Ines is constantly traveling. But suddenly the whole world stood on pause. And the last questions I asked the climber were sent from self-isolation to self-isolation. But let’s go back a bit, at a time when it felt like our right to travel couldn’t be challenged.
By Elena Dmitrenko
Photos: Courtesy of author
Ines, in the midst of this year’s madness tell me, please… What became symbols of the previous year for you?
Actually, we enjoyed the 31st of December of 2018 on the mountain in the Brenta. We climbed a new route. Luka and I slept in a tent, which was great. I’ve never slept in the tent in the Alps before, cause everything is so close. However, this is a place, Brenta, where you still have those long hikes. Nobody else was there, and the ice was really good. So the start of the year in peace and silence was pretty amazing. At the same time, we got the idea to go to Canada. We started creating the plan to do the Panamericana, the high way from Alaska all the way down to Patagonia with a camper, a simple motor home, and climb all along the way.
Last year was full of thinking, planning, trip proposals to sponsors. At the same time, the Tourism Office of Berchtesgaden asked me to organize the Basecamp festival, a climbers community festival with different activities, speakers, films, all that kind of stuff, party music. Sounds like OK, I can handle that. So we are going to bring the Basecamp Festival back to life on October 16–18th 2020. Save the Date.
They believe in me, they trust me, they want me to do it. And they take all the risk. So, wow, this was not for nothing! In 2011 it was for sure the highlight of the year for me, and I’d like to share all my memories, experiences, and stories. I see people looking up to those guys, like on stage, but I don’t want to make them look them up. I want to spend time with them, to go climbing, to go hiking. To sum up, it was all and overall a really good year!
Well, let’s talk about your cooperation with Arc’teryx. You have been working with them for a long time. I’ve been following your reports from Arc’teryx Academy clinics for several years now. Tell us more about it, please. What is it, what are you doing there, how do people get there?
The idea started… perhaps, seven years ago. We did the first Academy.
I think the idea is pretty cool – to keep the community together. They do now it in alpinism, they do it in skiing, in rock climbing in Squamish. We try to entertain people, to help them become what they would like to be. On the one hand, it’s a marketing thing for Arc’teryx, on the other hand, it costs them crazy lots of money.
Actually, people don’t need to buy an Arc’teryx jacket for joining the Academy. There’s a website, and you can apply. One day the website opens, the same day everything is booked. You have to be fast.
Who are the participants?
People who want to get into climbing, into alpinism. They want to learn about all the activities, so they come to the festival, they pay a small amount of money. We get really high qualified guides and athletes to learn from them. We choose topics, divide people into groups. Last year, I had alpinism, high level. It was a really small group, and we really climbed, not just talked about how to use crampons kind of stuff. And there were also only female clinics.
It’s all about learning and people doing what they want to do. It’s not about guiding them, you know. The idea is to make them learn what they need for what they want to do. And when you come together, you watch films, you watch presentations… It’s about the community. They are not just people from all over the world, they gather, because they have the idea to become climbers one day. They have a dream, but they don’t have useful knowledge. And they can also test gear and clothes.
I think you should come to the next Academy!
While we were working on the interview, the coronavirus pandemonia were spreading. Unfortunately, the next Arc’teryx Academy will be held no earlier than in 2021!
Returning to your idea for the trip with Luka. You know, I met Kate Rawles, who went by bike from Texas to Alaska in three months… and in thirteen months from Colombia to Ushuaia on a bamboo bike. I think, to make all way from up to down might be amazing.
We are not doing it on a bike, we only climb, you know. We would like to spend as much time in each range as possible. So the driving part… you have to do it to get there. It’s for sure pretty to see all the landscape. However, we don’t feel, that we want to drive, you know. We want to spend a day more in the mountains, meet local people, get more into the culture of each country.
When you are planning to start?
It’s postponed to next spring;(
Then there’s no point in asking about the timing of the project as a whole.
That’s another question. I don’t know.
We would spend for sure more than a year and not in one push, you know, because we need to do lecturers, we have responsibilities. We’ll see.
Okay. You’ll see it later. Let’s get back to your life. After your expedition to Shishapangma, you never went to the big mountains again. Is this pause temporary? Did you manage to think about it and get over it?
No, I will never return to a big mountain like Shishapangma… because I can’t just deal with the fears anymore. I didn’t feel… I didn’t feel like I wanted to go.
I will climb the mountains sure, but not big-big, you know. I’m done with that. Luka slowly getting back into creating plans for the bigger objects. I think I’m not ready to invest as much. It is a lot of energy. It is a lot of training. You have to create your life around the project like this more than any other. There are so many other things going on in my life, that I’m not ready to do it again. And on top of the risk and the high, high chance to fail. It’s like investing so much time on the project where you have 80% or even more of failing because of weather conditions, whatever.
But I’m still interested in technical climbing on mountains maximum 7,000 meters. I think I get the feeling for the risk easier than in such a big terrain. I’m going back to the Himalayas for sure. I’m happy and lucky. Nobody pushes me. And, you know, climbing is so complex, you can open a new route and rock, and you can kick your ass so hard… And the winter, the ice climbing… I’m really passionate about it. So it’s a good idea to have a one year break.
How do you deal with understanding, that your every step might be the last one there, in the death zone?
I don’t know. When you’re on a normal route on a fixed rope with Sherpas, with other camps, being prepared with the bottle of oxygen, it’s a different story. There is nothing, that touches my heart. I would never do an expedition on a normal route, or a commercial expedition on a static rope with oxygen just to prove myself, that I’m able to climb an 8000-meter peak. In my opinion, ethically it’s not correct. If I want to do it – I want to do it myself… a small team and an alpine-style on a side of the mountain, where no people are… This is connected to really high risk. You know the normal routes, the easier ones, still, have risk, they are dangerous, but it’s a different story. Every time, even if you have people around who could help you, it’s still dangerous.
And sometimes you can get to your camp and realize, for example, that there is no tent anymore. Or there are no more fixed ropes in a dangerous area or ladder through a crack! Sometimes it happens.
“But I paid for it! I want to have my rope!” You know, that’s the case up there with people: I paid! And they really pay crazy lots of money.
They didn’t bring ropes to protect themselves, because they were guessing the ropes are still there! This is so crazy! I don’t want to rely on other people, to rely on other expeditions.
This is so far away from my imagination. I could climb an 8,000-meter peak on a normal route, but this is something I will never do.
Did Luca get over that Shishapangma experience more easily?
The same. We both had a year without any expeditions. We’ve been talking a lot about it… but he succeeded on Broad Peak in 2016. As acclimatization for G4… They had no static ropes. They went the normal route, but no one else went that year. So they had this pure experience on Broad peak: climbing the mountain, a small team like breaking trail… climbing in alpine style basically. He was happy doing it. He was really happy, that they finished, and also G4. He has also good memories in his mind, but he also doesn’t want to do it with me anymore, because for the couple it’s different. You don’t want to see your partner in a crazy, dangerous situation. It’s a test for you, as a couple, when you try to climb such a hard mountain, actually, a dangerous mountain, and you’re not ready to risk. If he goes, he will go with Aleš Česen again to Pakistan.
I’m glad, he’s doing it when he feels that’s right.
After climbing “Riders on the Storm” on Torres del Payne with Mayan Smith-Gobat, you’ve finally established yourself as a climber who isn’t afraid to climb difficult routes with women. However, it seems you’ve found your perfect partner on Kyzyl Asker. Has your life changed since then?
Yeah, you’re right. However, honestly, after those three years, we both agreed, that we need to go back to climbing with people we had climbed with before because there are strong friendships. Like Luka and Aleš, they started climbing together with Marco Prezelj. It’s a really good team. And, you know, I really like climbing with female partners, but Mayan now into Horses more than into climbing but this can change again. You never know.
She doesn’t really climb big mountains anymore. I wish I could go back with her to another project. She never used ice tools and crampons. This is something, which limits my goals with her because I love climbing with ice tools. In Patagonia, we were a really good team, we had to do some ice, it was my main part. And it was a difficult rock pitch – it was her part. We were matching really well together. She brought her experience from big wall climbing. She knew all the tricks with hauling, with everything, and it was a good expedition.
Of course, it’s a story, when two girls go to Patagonia, really a harsh place, where the wind is really bad, and the weather’s usually terrible.
Some people were saying: it’s not a good idea for two girls. Of course, we had Thomas Senf with us helping a little bit, he was shooting that trip. But yeah, it is a different story, because you don’t feel like we are only female… We are climbers, if you’re male or female, it doesn’t matter. When you work well together, it’s like… equal. It’s an even level. That’s important in a team. You have to have an even level, you accept that the other person has other skills than you, and when you realize their skills and push them to go for it, and those people push you, I think, you’re a good team.
When we go on an expedition, there is no expedition leader. We both, or all of us, have our opinions, decisions. We talk about it, and we make decisions together. This is how I like to climb.
I really liked your presentation with Luka a year ago in Poland and his story about your home and life. About the sharing of roles. It was fun. And, maybe, it was a joke. Or, maybe, not. Tell me, how did you manage to be in the mountains and not get stuck in everyday living?
You know there was always part of my life since Manu was born. I had just started climbing before he was born. I have to plan really well to organize that the fridge is full of food before we all come home in the evening. We built a house ten years ago, cause I wanted to have a proper base for my son. He has a space to have his friends around. And now Luka is a part of it. We call it “a funny family”. Manu respects him as a really good friend, they get along really well with each other. Well. It’s necessary to have space like this, where you can work without being tired from all the traveling, you know. You can easily get tired when you travel all year round.
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Didn’t use my car today and the last days as a symbol of solving some real environmental problems. Mother nature appreciates the brake of freedom to travel. Today is the 50th anniversary of the Earth Day. @arcteryx is making great progress. I am very greatful to work with this brand. for so many years. Please read the bird blog. Link in bio. #dojust1thing
I really go only traveling when I have the desire to leave my home, but I love to come back. And it’s also Luka’s home now. The place, where I have been living for 25 years now, it’s a very traditional place. Also when it comes to climbing, it’s a strong tradition, and people are not super open-minded. And having new people in the area, it’s kind of interesting for them. You know, they would not accept everyone as a friend the first minute. They’re really selecting like this is a cool guy, or not. Luka is accepted not just as a really good climber, but also as a good person. That makes me happy. If he wasn’t a good person, he wouldn’t be with me.
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Often I ask myself: ‚Am I a good mum?‘ I always tried, but often got confused. Do I push my son to much into the life of climbing, I love so much? Did I overstrain him with all the trips around the globe together? My childhood was totally different. My mom gave us all the freedom we needed. She always trusted me and my little sister, coming home from exploring the forests before dark. Thanks for that, mum! Happy mother’s day to all mum‘s. Either way is probably right;) #celebratewild #lyofood #julboathlete #womenwhoclimb #liveclimbrepeat #mothersday #climbing #lovelowa
Maybe, a personal question. If you don’t want it, you can not answer. Does your son communicate with his father?
Yes. Manu has a really good father. I think this is also important for a child, every period of his life as a person to have strong relationships with both of the parents. I was always working hard to make it happen. It was not always easy to communicate with his father since we were not together anymore. I thought it was smarter to push my own feelings, disappointments, whatever happened when we broke up. He is Manu’s father, he deserves to spend time with him. I think we are dealing pretty well with that, both of us. Manu got used to traveling every week with his bag to his father. It’s not so far, 10.5 kilometers.
I am usually happy to hear the stories when families managed to deal with it. It’s a good example. I know, that you climb sometimes with your son. Does he like climbing? Or he just respects your passion?
He would never do something only because he respects me. He’s a teenager! We’ve been climbing and traveling a lot together. But he was never really like super-strong connected to it. He told me the other day when he was 12 or 13: “A friend asked me to join their local climbing team”.
They get support. They have training sessions, they have trips supported by the alpine club. And I was like… Really? “Yeah, mom. But I have to climb 6c+ on lead to do that.” And I said… yeah, if this is something you would like to do, then you should join the team, to train on the 6c+ level. I support you, but I don’t push you. It was his own decision to join the club. And now he is a children coach for competition. He has a license. He’s coaching kids. He’s more into sport timing and competing now. He’s a terrible competitor because he is strong, but he can’t deal with the pressure.
He climbs 8b, which is quite a level, I think, for an 18-years-old guy. He was 18 when he climbed his first 8b, and he’s super motivated, maybe, a little bit too much, he’s putting pressure on himself… I tell him: “Relax! If you don’t do it today, you will be back tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.”
How old is he now?
And we are going back to Canada once he finishes high school. I invited him to Canada, to climb a route in the Bugaboos. We both didn’t manage to free it back in the days when he was 14. So he was far away from climbing it free, I also couldn’t free route. It’s crazy hard…
Something between 7c and 8a, but it’s crack climbing – something we don’t do so often.
I entered the university when I was sixteen. But we have a different education system.
I know, I also left home, when I was sixteen. I didn’t live with my parents anymore, but he’s nineteen. If I don’t kick him out of my house, he will stay forever. Honestly!
I’ve already told my own son: eighteen, that’s enough… your suitcase, and university!
He doesn’t want to go to university, because we have no university at our home location. He need to drive, or to travel, or to move… and yeah, we’ll see.
When some people give birth to children, they try to keep their own lives the same, but it’s almost impossible. How did your life change after your son was born?
You know, it has changed a lot. I had a lot of responsibilities and only small periods of the year when I could go away from home because I had the support of Manu’s father’s mom. She still comes, when I’m away from home, and it’s great. I never wanted to go two or three times per year on big trips because I wanted to see my son growing, to be at home if he had problems in life or education.
But it was always a big, you know, logistic. He had to return from kindergarten at two o’clock. So I had climbed in the morning from 7:30 when he left, and I had to find people, who wanted to go at the same time… and people, who were ready to go fast, you know. You could spend all day in the mountains, but you could do the same route, whatever, in a smaller amount of time. I had limits. I had to use only six hours.
It was motivating! [laughing]
Yeah, it was. And the less time I had, the more I could make out of it. I became… how to say? More time-efficient. Maybe that helped to progress.
I’m sure. What is the current world level of female mountaineering? What has changed with the appearance of people like Sasha DiGiulian in the big wall climbing?
The field of female sport climbing and competing is crazy strong. Like… WOW! It makes me almost cry… how strong they climb. There’s not much of a difference to the male guys anymore. Also in bouldering and stuff. However, when it comes to alpinism, we get less and less [women], you know, when such a degree in climbs… routes, like Sasha, did in the past years, she realized she can transfer her skills onto the bigger faces.
I love staying in a tent, going on long trips. I think, she realizes, that this is what people don’t do, what women don’t do a lot.
There are other examples… I like the true kind of spirit that has Karo North. Have you heard about her? She loves the mountains, she’s a really strong person, in my opinion. Also, Brett Harrington. So many girls honestly climbing high technical routes in the mountains.
Actually, I think that Sasha brings modern social ideas to our somewhat stagnant world of outdoors. In Russia, when you speak about female climbers, you hear somewhat like… the women’s place is under the mountain, waiting for a man, or in the kitchen. Do you feel it in Germany and Europe outdoors?
This is not so strong in Europe anymore. It was when I started climbing, and I had to fight a lot to get where I am today. People said that it was not for girls. Today it’s a different story.
I understand, for Sasha, the idea of big wall climbing might be a marketing thing from some point. Nevertheless, I saw her movie now at the Banff Film Festival, and it was very emotional. It seemed that she was very happy when finished these lines. On the other hand, she brings ideas of equality to the community and supports women.
I noticed female athletes are usually not as convinced of being able to do something as male.
Well, I would rather say, in the clinics, I’m doing in Chamonix, for example, for girls only, they subscribe themselves as beginners, but they all have a higher level. Guys often subscribe themselves as medium experienced, and then they come as total beginners.
And so I would like to support women who really want to go to сlimb the mountains.
Obviously, there are some people thinking about starting to climb in the mountains. On lecture in Moscow in November, when someone asked me how I did start the process, I replied, that I studied with more experienced people. Though, I also noticed the moment, that just following would not give me the full skills of being an alpinist. By that time, I started climbing with girls, who had my level, or who had less experience. And I had to climb with girls because men were… protective, like Luka. It’s OK. We can both do really well with it, but when it gets dangerous or whatever, he would like… you know, to behave like a man: I can do it. But, hey, I want to do it, it’s easy!
It’s good, that you catch this thing. You both understand this. But I was told once at the mountaineering conference: “Lena, women must give birth!”
No, they don’t have to. And they can do both. They can give birth and go climbing.
I see a huge difference between climbing El Cap and Himalayan alpinism, where you need to use ice tools and crampons. Female climbers are getting more and more also on the big faces… like Babsi Zangerl, Nina Caprese, Brett Harrington, Emily Harrington, Hazel Findlay. So a lot of strong women…
Anyway, if we listen to everybody, who says that “you need to be protected”, “you might get a trauma”, we will never climb.
I had one pure female expedition to the Himalayas with Audrey Gariepy in 2011, I think, with Jennifer Olson from Canada. Audrey stopped climbing after that expedition because she got some frostbites. She was a really tough woman, who had lost her friend before. Have you heard about Guy Lacelle from Canada? Audrey was extremely gifted, but our other friend Jenn wanted to be the leader of the expedition, and she was the only guide in our team.
We all bring our own stories, and our own expectations, and skills. I and Audrey were both… not like… we need a guide. We didn’t get well with one of the teammates, so Jenn went home. And there were two of us left. Then Audrey got her frostbites. She had to leave, and then I stayed there alone… and I thought that it was not the smartest idea ever to go to a female team.
I think not the idea was the problem.
Yes. Finally, I climbed a new line on Kwangde Shar with our photographer Cory Richards, but it was not the aim of the trip. The idea of the trip was to climb into a female team. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.
And three people… it’s more difficult than two. If two people have different opinions, it’s 50/50. If three ones have different opinions, two are on one side, one is on the other side. And that one might feel like a black sheep.
For me, it’s not the problem of female teams, it is about unsuccessful partnerships.
It is difficult to find the right partners. You have to match really well, not just as a rope team, but also as human beings.
I would like to find the right female partner.
I remember your interview 14 years ago. And one question was about your Tre Cima di Lavaredo free climb (Camillotto Pellissier route). And how some men were dissatisfied with it. Do you remember that moment?
I remember two guys from South Tyrol, from Dolomites, Christoph Hainz, and Kurt Astner. They also free climbed the route. And Hainz only followed while Kurt made the free ascend. And he said, he could top-rope the route from the first try, so it couldn’t be 8b, or whatever. So I had to downgrade.
Maybe, he was right. It just took me some time, and I thought, I would not downgrade it.
He’s a really strong climber…
I also told him, that he was super strong. You couldn’t downgrade, because you spent less time.
It wasn’t a terrible discussion, but I had the feeling, you know… also, Kurt climbed the route before and he didn’t downgrade. After they asked me to downgrade the route, I was like… Why didn’t you do it?
You are one of those people, generations look up to. Do you feel it? Does it motivate you? Does it give you strength or pressure?
No, I don’t feel any pressure. It motivates me, inspires me. If I do, what I’m doing, and I don’t talk about it, I don’t share my stories with other people, younger people, whoever, women, for instance… isn’t it… selfish? I come back from the mountain, I am a happy person, I’m the lucky bastard… When I have a chance to talk to people, to inspire them, climbing gives me a new dimension.
Share the story. What moment in your life do you like to tell your audience about during lectures?
I don’t know. I noticed on lectures… There are some alpinists, they are serious, they want to know more. Nevertheless, there are some people, who don’t really understand, what we are doing out there.
They like to catch funny stories. How to go to the toilet, for example. For instance, I had a lecture back in the days. And I had a lecture two days ago in the same valley again. Listeners said they still remember when I was throwing the boxer shorts. Because we were on the expedition, the guy had to wash his boxer shorts. He was hanging them and they were frozen like a frisbee. We played frisbee with his boxer shorts. People remember our frisbee! They also remember once, when I fell on the route, on the mixed route, I opened in Canada. I fell, and I lost my ice tool. And it was supposed to fall like 400 meters all the way down. But it didn’t. When I fell, I managed to catch it. Well, we have this on film.
You are very lucky!
Thanks. I was very lucky. And after the lecture, they applauded, and not because I had climbed the route, but because I had caught my ice tool. Those are the stories people keep in mind.
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To not forget, how to bivi. Slowly seeing a small chance for a summer with lots of alpine climbing in my home mountains. #stayhome #sehnsuchtbgl @bergerlebnis_berchtesgaden @berchtesgadener_land @arcteryx @lowa.outdoor @julbo_eyewear @blackdiamond @edelweiss_connection @lyofood
We’re all going through some hard times right now. How are you and your family coping with the pandemic?
We simply stay home and keep ourselves busy with writing, editing, sorting out the mess on several hard drives, cleaning house and garden, doing stretching/yoga, Hangboard training, making dinners that take time, baking bread, doing skype calls to friends and families. We go running and biking within our home area, noting huge but just enough to stay fit.
Tell us about your daily routine.
Every morning I wake up at 6.30 by an alarm. Then I have coffee and breakfast while doing this I do some notes, what I am going to do during the day. This helps me to stay focused and not get lost in time.
Often we do 2 sessions of training a day:
- morning: hangboard;
- noon: Stretching;
- early evening: other exercises like core training, pushups;
- in between some gentle running.
We are three at home, my partner Luka, my Son Emanuel, and myself. We don´t meet any friends or family for 2.5 weeks now (at the time the question was asked – Note Aut.) and we try to be nice to each other. Manu has to study a lot for his high school exams that hopefully will happen at some point.
WomenGoHigh asked Ines to share a recipe that will entertain you during the days of isolation and give you some joy and warmth!
Make bread yourself in different variations, it’s healthier than the one from the shop and you can add your own favorite ingredients.
- 500g Spelt (freshly grained)
- 400ml warm water
- 1 dice yeast
Here you can add 150g of any nuts, carrots, seeds… wild garlic…
Bake for 45 min 180 °C.
Ines Papert is a German alpine climber, multiple times champion in ice climbing. She world-known for her difficult alpine ascents and mixt lines. Ines has made several first ascents and considered one of the strongest female climbers in the world.
Ines Papert was born on 5 April 1974 and grew up in the northern Saxon town of Bad Düben, Germany. As Wikipedia says, “she comes from a musical family and plays piano and saxophone”. After completing her education as a physiotherapist, Papert left her home in Saxony, Germany in 1993 and moved to Berchtesgaden, Bavaria in the Alps.
And since her interest in mountains began to grow she started to play the rocks.
Ines became the truly ice queen, winning the overall Ice Climbing World Cup title four times. She was the first woman to climb the mixed grade of M11. And the first person summited Likhu Chuli (6719m) in Nepal, alone.
- 2001. First rock climbing route in the French eighth grade
- 2006. Redpoint climb Camilotto Pellisier (in French degrees 8b) in the north wall of the Cima Grande.
- 2007. The first repetition of the hitherto well hardest mixed route in the world Law and Order (M13)
- 2009. First ascent of the route Power of Silence (7c +, 11 pitches) by the South Face of Middle Huey Spire in Canada.
- 2010. First ascent of the mixed routes Triple X (VIII, 8) on Ben Nevis and Bavarinthia (IX, 9) at the Cairngorms, Coire a Lochain in Scotland
- 2011. Quantum of Solace route on Great Walls of China, 600m, china/Kyrgyzstan; Difficulty: ABO, WI 7+, M7
- 2012. Repetition of Illuminati, M11 +, WI6+, near St. Ulrich, Tyrol
- 2013. First ascent of Likhu Chuli 1 in Nepal, which she climbed solo
- 2013. First ascent of the route Azazar (8a, 9 pitches) in the south-west wall of Tadrarate in Morocco
- 2014. First redpoint tour of the route Without smoke, you will die (8a, 17 ropes) on the north face of the Great Trenches in Italy
- 2015. Second ascent of the mixed route Holy Grail (M12, W15)
- 2016. The fifth ascent of Riders on the Storm, VI 5.12d A3, the Torre Central (Torres del Paine National Park), Patagonia
- 2016. A successful climb of the difficult southeast face of the Kyzyl Asker 5,842m up a new route Lost in China WI5+ M6 1,200m. With Luka Lindič
Long list at Wikipedia
Big thanks to Arc’teryx Russia and Irina Novikova for organizing the interview, and Yelyzaveta Korotyayeva, Anastasia Chepurova and Hanna Aleksandronets for help with material.